One of the benefits of the remote work lifestyle is the freedom to travel. For some, it’s about solo adventures. For others, it’s about sharing experiences and resources with like-minded people. Catering to planet-roaming remote workers, a spate of new coworking and coliving locations began to emerge during the last decade across the globe.
Ask any remote worker about their quality of life, and you can be pretty much assured they will happily regale you with the many benefits of location-independent work. The freedom from regular office life can be liberating and conjures glamorous images of people taking surf breaks from their pop-up beach offices or working from the trendiest cafes in every corner of the globe.
People want different things. Some remote workers are looking for the solitude of a pristine Norwegian forest or the relaxed lifestyle of a Caribbean island. Others prefer the fast pace of modern city life or the quiet of country-based communal surroundings with an emphasis on sustainable living. Whatever the choice, the common thread running throughout is the desire to mitigate the isolation and loneliness that can come from this kind of independent, often solitary lifestyle.
Remote Work Challenges
No matter how exciting remote work may seem, balancing what you need and what you desire can be challenging. For many, whether working from home or traveling to places where the language is unfamiliar, the lifestyle can become isolating. And for those who are often on the road, loneliness and a growing sense of not belonging to any place or community are real issues.
The formal workplace, although at times distracting, offers the opportunity for social interaction. Not to mention, living in the mountains is not for everyone! Some people need the buzz of the office to feel secure or be productive. Office background noise generators like The Sound of Colleagues were created as a reaction to the COVID-19 work-from-home policies in Sweden. I Miss the Office, an office noise generator “providing the soothing tones of the office to help you focus,” has also emerged to remedy the problem.
It’s well known that working alone, neglecting self-care, and failing to log off from work on a regular basis can lead to burnout. For designers who love what they do, it can be all too easy to keep going on a project until they’re exhausted. Those eight-hour workdays can quickly stretch to 10 or 12 hours—or longer. Working in a coworking and coliving environment may help keep the lid on working hours.
How do we mitigate the drawbacks of the remote work lifestyle? To deal with the challenges of working in isolation, many remote workers focus on routines, to-do lists, regular exercise, or periodic social video calls with remote colleagues for social interaction. However, it seems like a great deal of compensating, rather than building a more resilient sense of community into one’s lifestyle. The coliving/coworking trend offers a ready-built pathway to finding community in an often confusing and lonely world.
What Is Coliving?
Emerging around 2015 and touted as a hot new millennial trend, coliving is a popular community living concept that typically caters to upwardly mobile, single young professionals looking for convenience, flexibility, and community. It offers the opportunity to share an environment with like-minded people, the benefit of flexible rental terms, and overall freedom from the usual daily concerns.
It is important to note, however, that coliving is not a new concept, nor is it confined to one age group or demographic—humans have been living communally for thousands of years. And, as Gui Perdrix notes in his Coliving Diaries blog: “While it is true that many coliving spaces target millennials, the current aspiration of coliving is to become more inclusive.”
Nevertheless, the most successful coliving brands today focus on remote workers and other young single professionals. Always with the prerequisite high-speed internet provided, apartments (or rooms) typically include a private bathroom and are fully furnished, with sheets and towels provided. Service costs are shared, and communal kitchens are stocked with basic necessities. Aside from a kitchen, laundry, and well-appointed leisure areas, shared facilities may include a swimming pool, spa, gym, and workspaces.
One constant discussed around remote work and travel is how to remain socially connected, or find a sense of community along the way. Providing a sense of community is one of the most common phrases used to market coliving spaces and retreats for remote workers, and shared spaces are designed to encourage social engagement. Roam, a collection of coworking and coliving spaces worldwide, is an excellent example of this model.
Not to be left behind, the dominant coworking brand WeWork jumped on the bandwagon with WeLive as a natural progression of its business model. Promoting it as “community-based living,” the shared facilities range from rooftops, TV rooms, arcades, and “all of the beer, coffee, and tea that you can drink.”
Coliving Trends for Remote Workers
Sluggish wage growth and sky-high rents in major cities have made it unaffordable for young adults to live alone. According to the Pew Research Center, since the Great Recession of 2008, many are choosing to live with their parents. Though a potentially workable alternative, for young professionals wanting to have fun, explore the world, and hang out with friends, this option cannot be considered the optimal choice.
The digital age has affected a massive shift in the working world—it’s changing rapidly, and it will continue to evolve. Remote workers play a huge role and have a large stake in how that evolution will play out. Coliving’s re-emergence is an important aspect in the reformation of urban living. Although it may not be for everyone as a long-path choice, it certainly offers a vibrant and effective solution to the growing sense of isolation, displacement, and loneliness that many people these days feel.
Today, a variety of successful coliving properties cater to different living styles and personal tastes, including The Collective in London and New York, Habyt in Germany, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, and Common in the United States. Outsite and Ollie with locations worldwide and Nest in Copenhagen are a few more examples of worthwhile coliving environments to explore.
To help planet-roaming remote workers choose an ideal option, Nomad List, a cost comparison, ratings, and reviews site, offers a central place to peruse listings and explore the highest-rated remote working locations.
A good illustration of an emergent coliving lifestyle is Vonder, one of the growing cohorts of coliving properties. They offer “beautifully designed urban spaces to emphasize experiences within a vibrant community.” Though not a traditional coliving brand (their living spaces are independent and do not offer shared facilities such as kitchens, bathrooms, or living rooms), their emphasis is on community, content, experience, and the ability to connect people. Their marketing tag is, “Vonder is a new way of life.”
Coliving may not be for everyone, and though these coliving complexes may seem remarkable, they aren’t necessarily practical or sustainable and can be quite expensive. Many pioneering, ambitious coliving companies running “digerati dorms” such as Campus, Pure House, and Krash have already fallen by the wayside.
Nevertheless, there is clearly an urgent need to create more coliving options to suit all budgets and lifestyles. Technology is one way to help supply meet demand, and new offerings like Badi, an AI-driven rental marketplace, aim to offer a solution.
COVID-19 and Communal Living Spaces
Community, social interaction, and popular communal areas are the central selling points of coliving. Are they compromised by COVID-19 and the strict code of social distancing and stringent hygiene protocols we are now facing?
Some say this is not the case. People living alone found themselves feeling isolated and increasingly lonely during lockdown, and living through the pandemic has led to a rise in interest in communal spaces.
“Co-living was already moving from ‘a trend’ to an established way of life in 2020—but in the wake of the coronavirus, we’ve seen interest surge. The social isolation of lockdown has reminded people that connection and community are the cornerstones of a healthy and happy life, and they’re making the move from renting alone to coliving to find it.” —Tomer Bercoviz, Chief Executive, Vonder
Properties are aware of the need to create safe and secure living spaces during the pandemic. As an example, it is worth checking out The Collective’s What we’re doing about COVID-19 in their online journal.
Coworking, Coliving, and Cohousing—the Distinctions
Coworking. Typically attracting freelancers, frequent travelers, entrepreneurs, startups, small teams, and remote workers of all stripes—in general, anyone looking to escape the isolation of working at home or in a coffee shop, coworking spaces offer community and flexible, affordable office space that includes the use of shared infrastructure, such as equipment, utilities, a receptionist, and custodial services, as well as private meeting rooms, hot-desks, and kitchens.
Coliving. A type of “intentional community,” coliving is targeted to upwardly mobile, young, single professionals and is a way of living focused on community, flexibility, and convenience. Typically, everything needed to enjoy a productive, comfortable life is provided and included in one bill: rent, concierge, hi-speed internet, utilities, taxes, room cleaning, and sometimes events and a gym membership. Commonly attracting the same cohort as coworking spaces (entrepreneurs, artists, freelancers, etc.), coliving spaces often include a coworking option.
Cohousing. Also an “intentional community,” the modern cohousing movement consists of small family homes clustered around a shared space that typically includes a common building with a large kitchen, dining room, guest rooms, and recreational areas. Emerging in Denmark during the 1970s, cohousing tends to thrive in suburban or rural areas rather than urban settings, as is the case with coliving communities. Households have independent incomes and private lives but work collaboratively to plan and manage community activities and shared spaces.
Final Thoughts on Coliving Trends
“Until well into the nineteenth century, heaven was represented not as a community of families but as one large community of friends.” —A World of Their Own Making: Myth, Ritual, and the Quest for Family Values, John Gillis
There is really nothing new about shared living spaces; we have chosen to live communally throughout history. As hunter-gatherers of the Stone Age, during medieval times when most people lived with a revolving mix of friends and extended family, to the boarding houses of the Industrial Revolution and the World War II era. The first kibbutz, a collective community unique to Israel, was founded more than 100 years ago. Today, more than 270 kibbutzim continue to thrive.
Is coliving the future of housing? Rising urbanization, a surge in global mobility, and an increasing lack of affordable housing, combined with loneliness, a growing thirst for community, and an overall change in the way people live, work, and play, have heightened the appeal of coliving. It is considered by some pundits a potential solution to many of the societal challenges we are currently facing.
Is it safe? Living in a large, unfamiliar urban environment can feel overwhelming and, at times, unsafe. Typically, with around-the-clock security and concierge service, facial recognition, and biometric entry and departure, coliving spaces are managed and serviced by strong global brands, and it is very much within their interests to keep their residents safe.
Coliving today is global, digital, and able to provide a quality alternative to mainstream forms of housing. It offers flexibility, freedom of movement, and the opportunity to experience diverse cultures, ethnicities, and nationalities, with people who have similar desires and live/work/play patterns.
Coliving may not be for everyone, and in these turbulent times, it is difficult to predict how the future will unfold. Trends come and go, but coliving in one form or another has been around for millennia, and it is probably fair to assume that the current model will continue to gain momentum and be around for years to come.
Let us know what you think! Please leave your thoughts, comments, and feedback below.
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Further reading on the Toptal Design Blog:
Understanding the basics
Does remote working really work?
The remote work lifestyle is popular, and has surged during COVID, but it does not work for everyone. For some, the freedom from regular office life can be liberating, while others may prefer the social interaction of the formal workplace and need the buzz of the office to feel secure or be productive.
What does it mean to work remotely from home?
Choosing a remote work lifestyle whether from home or a work living space means more time to spend with family, freedom to choose when/how you work (though you may work more than you expected), more alone time (it can be lonely). It’s important to set work/play boundaries and log off from work on a regular basis.
What is the best way to work remotely?
Best practices for a successful remote work lifestyle include: the designation of a workspace, the right equipment, setting boundaries, taking breaks, making time for personal activities, overcommunicating, and staying connected with colleagues and your community.
Where do you live if you work remotely?
Coworking and coliving as a concept and a way of life is now everywhere. A remote work lifestyle means you can live and work from home or a coworking space or private home in any city, suburban, or rural environment across the world.
What are coliving spaces?
Coliving is a community living concept for like-minded people to live, work, and play together. Living spaces are well designed, fully furnished, with incidentals and utilities covered by one bill. Catering to a variety of living styles and tastes, the main value of the coliving experience is access to community.
What does coliving mean?
A type of “intentional community” usually catering to the remote work lifestyle, coliving is a way of living focused on community, flexibility, and convenience, offering the opportunity to share an environment with like-minded people.